Where does Pafos 2017 stand?

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The banners at the entrance of Paphos indicating the town as a candidate city for the European Capital of Culture in 2017 may be slightly deceptive, says Erica Charalambous, Community Involvement & Development Officer of Pafos 2017.

Yet just a month past the deadline for artistic proposals, Charalambous notes that this is only one of the many fine tunings that the Pafos 2017 organisation is steadily working on as it moves to turn the vision of one of the nominated cities of the Melina Mercouri Award into reality.

Paphos, along with Aarhus in Denmark, are the sister cities which will strive to meet the demands ofthe European Union throughout 2017 by organising a series of cultural events with a strong European and contemporary dimension.

But the preparatory process to serving as a European Capital of Culture can also generate considerable cultural, social and economic benefits and in some cases, assist in fostering urban regeneration, changing a city’s image and raising its visibility and profile on an international and national scale.

This is precisely what the Pafos 2017 team aspires to.
 Besides the financial obstacles the team has had to overcome over the past couple of years due to the current financial climate, the call for artistic proposals for the time period leading up to 2017 was a success.

The final selection of proposals is set to be announced at the end of November, with at least 200 propos- als submitted for projects that can start from this autumn, until 2017, Charalambous tells the paper.

These will only add on to the existing artistic programme which was already put in place when Paphos bid for the title back in 2012.Admittedly, this artistic programme has changed slightly, not due to the lack of infrastructure initially expected to have been built for the occasion, such as a theatre, but due to financial reasons, explains Charalambous.

This means that besides the €1.5 million which every cultural capital receives as an award, the remaining funds will have to be found throughtheir own initiative and in collaboration with the Pafos 2017 shareholders, namely municipalities of Paphos, Yeroskipou and Peyia, the Chamber of Commerce and the Community Committee.

As such, the artistic programme planned for 2017 tries to cover all the types of genres, from visual arts to performing arts and educational programmes which will enable the audience to become involved in activities and not find itself solely spectators.

What to expect until 2017

Throughout the summer, events have already begun taking place at varying locations around town, such as open air screenings on the beach.

“These projects that are happening now are more on an event basis,” explains Charalambous. “I would say they are a bit of a test drive. What we’re creating through these very small teasers are some cultural activities and testing certain areas of events, be- cause one of the objectives of this programme is to up- grade our infrastructure, upgrade our technical support system, get to know the people that are hands- on and can set up an event etc.”

A current programme that is running on an experimental level is a cultural barometer which measures how many people come to events, how easy it is to find the events, the locations at hand, whether events need more/less technical sup- port and so on.

“By measuring this and evaluating them we can undertake risk management and see what we can deal with for 2017 and of course build an audiencegenerally.”
Though the call forproposals has closed and promises an array of artistic events throughout the coming years, there is talk of another call later or closer to 2017.

“A lot may change by then, from a financial aspect. Things are a bit shaky generally in Cyprus right now and a lot could change and that’s another element we all have to be very much aware of,” concludes Charalambous, adding that maintaining anticipation for 2017 is also of prime importance.

The vision of Pafos 2017

The Pafos 2017 team has fostered a vision, encapsulated in the following: To leave its mark.
“It would be great if after 2017 one would see that some collaboration has been established between citizens and the community and the municipality,” says Charalambous, something which is apparently lacking at the moment. But further than building bridges on this front, leaving a mark seems equally important.

“The artistic programme would be a failure if all the money went into a spectacle, or a series of spectacles that never happen again. If we have events that are the beginning for something else and have people who have learnt something out of them for their own personal development, something has been accomplished.”
On a personal note Charalambous says: “My job is to deal with volunteers and create a volunteer programme and we don’t have a very strong culture of volunteerism in Cyprus. But if perspectives shift and people think that actually, by offering something, I’m learning some- thing, I’m developing, I’m growing, I’m offering something to the community that will in turn offer back to me, be- cause I live in it.”
And attitudes it seems have to change at all levels of the pyramid, only to allow Paphos to grasp an opportunity to “have a voice on a Pancyprian level and not only a European one, to create bridges with other cities and towns on the island and attain credibility,” says Charalambous.

On integration and volunteerism

Integrating locals and foreigners had been an integral part of the Pafos 2017 bid, and according to Charalambous, still very much is.

“It is a big part but unfortunately be- cause it took quite a while for the organisation to get set up, there was a huge expectation which is actually a phenomenon observed in many European capitals of culture.

“After the winning process, there has to be a whole internal restructuring and organisation, staffing, business orientation, infrastructure etc…this took some time and this created a lot of doubt I guess,” reveals Charalambous.

“It’s hard to define but one could call it speculation, competition perhaps… there was no clear direction or no clear information of what was going on and this created a lot of negativity,” she recalled.

“We had a lot of participation and a lot of people from different communities and ethnicities that came together to win this title. Things have died out for over a year now. We’re at a phase where we’re trying to bring people back in, there’s almost 800 people listed as volunteers so it’s not an issue of finding them, but it’s about inviting them, seeing what they want to do, if they still want to be involved, how they can get involved.”

Paphos’ sister city

Paphos bid with Aarhus, now sister cities, and al- though both will win their independent awards and pursue their own agenda from now until the end of 2017, the two cities are also exploring closer contacts.

“It would be beneficial for both cities to exchange artists and ideas,” says Charalambous, and as far as she is concerned, a collaboration which has begun between the two cities is “one of the first among cultural capitals”.

“We already started discussions; we had an artist visiting and he met some visual artists and our artistic team. They have also given us an idea on how they work in their villages and they have a team who are willing to either advise or help us on a volunteer basis,” adds Charalambous.

“There is an invitation being extended for artists in the visual arts department to do an exchange project with them which is in the framework of the 2017 cultural capital.”

More information can be found on www.pafos2017. eu

 

 

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